Steele leads Hartselle to win over Bob Jones

The Hartselle Tigers found themselves in a difficult spot on Friday night in their matchup with Bob Jones to close the regular season.

“It was a difficult ride through the regular season to finish 8-2,” Hartselle coach Bryan Moore said.

The Tigers entered the game with a banged-up offensive backfield with injuries to their quarterback and top two running backs.

Hartselle was looking for someone to step up and help take some snaps and rushing attempts to get through the game. In stepped senior Peyton Steele, a four-year starter on defense for the Tigers.

“What a game by Peyton,” Moore said. “He was really dynamic with the ball in his hand tonight. What unselfish play by him when his team need it most.”

Steele, who last played offense in eighth grade, took over the offense and led Hartselle to a 35-21 win over the 7A Patriots.

“I enjoyed the game tonight, being able to play both ways,” Steele said. “It was fun being able to play quarterback again and doing whatever my team needed.”

Bob Jones took a 7-0 lead with 4:24 left in the first quarter on a four-yard run.

The combination of Steele and quarterback Noah Lee led the Tigers on a 76-yard scoring drive to tie the game at 7-7 with 10:11 left in the second quarter. Steele capped the drive with a nine-yard run, breaking multiple Bob Jones’ tackles.

Following a 3-and-out forced by the Tigers’ defense, Hartselle used a pounding rushing game to grab a 14-7 lead when Steele scored his second touchdown on a three-yard run with 4:37 remaining in the half. The Tigers ran the ball eight times for 73 yards, including a 21-yard run by Ri Fletcher and a 14-yard run by Steele.

Hartselle extended their lead to 21-7 with a 10-play, 62-yard scoring drive capped off by a 14-yard Lincoln Bryant touchdown run with 8:02 remaining in the third quarter. Bryant ran three times for 32 yards during the drive.

Steele’s third touchdown pushed the Tigers’ lead to 28-7 with 4:50 remaining in the third. The score was set up by Jace Preuitt’s recovery of the kickoff that Bob Jones did not field. Steele had 24 yards rushing on the drive.

The Patriots scored on a 6-yard run to cap off a 60-yard scoring drive to cut the lead to 28-14 with 58 seconds remaining in the third.

Hartselle responded with a scoring drive that took a little more than a minute to push their lead back to 21, 35-14, when Bryant scored on a five-yard run with 11:45 remaining in the game. Steele had a 45-yard run that set up Bryant’s score.

Bob Jones used a 15-play drive to march 74 yards to cut the Hartselle lead to 35-21 on a four-yard scoring run with 5:23 remaining.

The Patriots recovered the ensuing onside kick to make another run at the endzone. However, the Hartselle defense rose to the occasion and stopped Bob Jones on a fourth-down play at the 18-yard line with 2:49 remaining.

The Tigers ran out the remaining time for the 35-21 victory.

Steele finished with 17 carries for 145 yards and three touchdowns.

Steele’s play tonight can best be summed up by this Sherrilyn Kenyon quote:

“Strength through adversity. The strongest steel is forged by the hottest fires. It is pounded and struck repeatedly… The fire gives it power and flexibility, and the blows give it strength. Those two things make it able to withstand every battle…”

Peyton has been forged for moments like tonight through his time on the football field and on the baseball field. He has faced a lot of difficult moments and has been on the top of the mountain and in the valley below. Tonight, he was back on top of the mountain.

Bryant had nine carries for 67 yards and two scores. Fletcher had 31 yards rushing and Jayden Morris added 27.

Lee finished 7-of-11 for 53 yards passing. Markus Tapscott had one reception for 29 yards before leaving the game. Fletcher had a catch for 14 yards.

Hartselle (8-2) will host Center Point (7-3) in the first round of the AHSAA 6A state playoffs on Friday night at JP Cain Stadium.

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